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Wildlife on the Mournes

A male Green Hairstreak in April at Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire
A male Green Hairstreak in April at the Mournes | © National Trust Images/Matthew Oates

Discover the many plants and animals that call this landscape home. From birds such as ravens, red grouse and peregrine falcons to mammals including the Irish hare, there’s an abundance of wildlife on the Mournes. It’s also been named as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its ground-nesting birds. Bring binoculars for birdwatching or simply keep your eyes peeled to see which of the Mourne's inhabitants you can spot

Spot seasonal wildlife and nature highlights

The Mournes contains wonderfully diverse and important habitats including mountain scree, wet and dry heath, montane heath and bog pools to name a few. These habitats play host to some breathtaking flora and fauna all year round.

Wildlife spotting

The Mournes are home to a variety of wildlife such as ravens, red grouse and peregrine falcons, as well as the Irish hare and on a winter's day you may be lucky enough to spot a beautiful snow bunting.

Spring sees the arrival of wheatear as well as two more scarce species - the ring ouzel, which is a very rare breeding summer visitor to Northern Ireland and the red grouse.

Spot unusual invertebrates

Wet springs and flushes are home to some unusual invertebrates, including the keeled skimmer which is a nationally rare dragonfly.

Eagle Rock is also said to be the last known breeding site in Northern Ireland for white-tailed sea eagle, common place in the Mournes until the mid-19th century.

The Montane heath vegetation - a Northern Ireland Priority Habitat, on the summit of Slieve Donard with a small area also on Slieve Commedag - has seen interesting and first recordings for Northern Ireland of the dwarf willow, feeding sawfly and two predatory ground beetles.

A wet heath provides the perfect habitat

Upland flushes, fens and swamps including extensive areas of wet heath and mire communities, pale butterwort, black bog-rush, bot asphodel and star sedge can be found along with notable and rare specimens such as starry saxifrage, and scarce beetles.

Rare butterflies

Several noteworthy butterfly species have also been recorded, including the green hairstreak, the dark green fritillary and the grayling. This area's dry heath habitat of western gorse and bell heather is recognised as being of European importance.

Picture of the Lathbury's nomad bee discovered on the Mournes by Entomologist Adam Mantell
The Lathbury's nomad bee discovered on the Mournes by Entomologist Adam Mantell | © Steven Falk

Lathbury's nomad bee discovered on the Mournes

In June, 2022, Entomologist Adam Mantell discovered the Lathbury's nomad bee or 'Nomada lathburiana' while surveying in the Bloody Bridge valley in June. The Lathbury's nomad bee was spotted along with other rare species such as Gooden's nomad bee and the dark-winged blood bee. The discovery highlights the continued importance of The Mournes in nature conservation. With its comparatively warm and sheltered aspect, and many flowering plants, the location provides ideal nesting and food sources for bees and other heat-loving pollinators, which would not normally be found this far north.

Visitors walking their dog on the circular trail around the lake at Buttermere Valley, Cumbria
Visitors walking their dog on lead at the Mournes | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Canine Code

To make sure that everyone has an enjoyable day, please follow our Canine Code:

  • Take the lead: help reduce the chance of your pup disturbing wildlife by keeping them on a lead
  • Scoop that poop: bag it and bin it to keep your favourite places beautiful
  • Paws for thought: look out for information signs (and take extra care on cliff paths)
  • Be on the ball: not everyone loves dogs, so keep them close by

Keeping control of your dog

Our definition of close or effective control is: ​

  • Being able to recall your dogs in any situation at the first call
  • Being able to clearly see your dog at all times (not just knowing they have gone into the undergrowth or over the crest of the hill). In practice, this means keeping them on a footpath if the surrounding vegetation is too dense for your dog to be visible
  • Not allowing them to approach other visitors without their consent
  • Having a lead with you to use if you encounter livestock or wildlife, or if you are asked to use one